A Quick One While He's Away: This Writer's Ten Favorite Bands, Part 1


This week, since most of you are probably day-dreaming about the coming three-day holiday weekend (I mean, who has to work on Friday, right?), I figured this was as good a time as any to engage in some "mindless self indulgence" and bore you all with my ten favorite bands in no particular order, beginning with these three. Stay tuned for more of my list as the week progresses.

Also, I've excluded the usual suspects that I'll presume we're all tired of reading about (Beatles, Stones, Who, etc.) in order to show some love to some less obvious, but just as deserving favorites. 

We'll call today's installment "The L.A. Edition". 



Sparks

In a perfect world, they'd have been inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame on the same ballot as Bowie. Sure, Bowie pre-dated them by a few years, but my point is that, for 45 years, the brothers Mael have been making some of the most original rock music on the planet. Like Bowie, they've also undergone their fair share of stylistic changes over the years. While I may not have enjoyed all of them equally, one can never accuse them of being boring or resting on their laurels, which is the true mark of genius, if you as me.

My Sparks era is their "new wave" period that followed a very successful "do-over" in England, which then morphed into a moderately successful (in England, that is) disco period.. Their work with Giorgio Moroder was simply masterful, resulting in some amazingly chart-worthy tunes like "#1 Song In Heaven", "Beat The Clock", and "When I'm With You" that somehow escaped notice here in the States.



All that changed with Angst In My Pants, which featured "I Predict" and "Eaten By The Monster Of Love" and arrived just in time to capitalize on the jittery new wave sound that started in L.A. and quickly engulfed the entire country as MTV began blaring into more and more households.
Of course, when Russ dueted with my "future wife" Jane Wiedlin on the irresistible summer radio jam "Cool Places", holy shit!

Sadly, by the time of 1985's Pulling Rabbits Out of A Hat, the Mael brothers would come to rely more on programmed instrumentation, thereby phasing out the stellar backing band (who also operated under the name Gleaming Spires) and watching their chart fortunes immediately evaporate. Atlantic Records showed them the door, which should have made them give the Spires a friendly and apologetic phone call, but instead led to a few truly unremarkable albums of synthesizers behaving badly.

It wasn't until Exotic Creates Of The Deep came in 2008 tat Sparks finally regained their footing and began firing on all cylinders with inspired gems like "Let The Monkey Drive", "I Can't Believe You Would Fall For All The Crap In This Song" and the hilariously hooky "Lighten Up, Morrissey".



Redd Kross

I spent two of the longest years of my life in Denver, the last of which plotting and planning a move to L.A. whilst spending eight hours a day working on an unheated shipping dock in what seemed like a never-ending winter blasting Redd Kross just to keep warm and dreaming of the golden, sunny days to come.



From the moment I laid eyes on the band with the long hair and kitschy 70s pop culture sensibilities, I wanted to love them, but just couldn't quite get the hang of their early albums. I kept on buying 'em, though, and by the time Phaseshifter showed up, my investment in this band finally began to pay dividends. Of course, that album and Show World were so poorly distributed by Mercury Records through some half-assed deal with ndie label This Way Up that the millions of rock fans who would LOVE these albums still don't even know of their existence.



Making maters worse, I timed my move to L.A. to coincide with their headline appearance at 1997's Sunset Junction, only to find out AT THE SHOW that the band had suddenly broken up and taking their place would be L7, who kicked righteous ass, I must say, but were no Redd Kross.

Go-Go's

I cannot overemphasize the seismic impact the Go-Go's first album Beauty & The Beat had on me, not to mention the rest of the country.  Within hours of their appearance on Saturday Night Live, they went from being just another aspiring L.A. new wave act to the hottest band in the country as fledgling indie label I.R.S. Records had their first legitimate chart-topper on their hands.



Thirty-some odd years down the road, their debut still sounds amazing thanks to the crack songwriting of Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey, who do most of the heavy lifting. Sadly, Vacation was thin on material, but rush-released anyway. Beyond the title cut, there wasn't much to sink your teeth into, but third album Talk Show was an inspired return-to-form that featured some of their best work, namely "Turn To You", "Yes Or No" (co-written by Sparks!) and the band's final Top 10 hit "Head Over Heals".

Soon after, drugs and in-fighting would force Wiedlin out of the band and lead the band to make their final live performance in Rio with new bassist Paul Jean Brown (and Kathy Valentine on guitar).

The band has reunited since then, of course, butthese days it is minus Valentine, who is playing what seems like ten shows a week with her Austin-based band the Bluebonnets.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

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